Friday, June 26, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Submarine Command (1951)

Lt. Commander Ken White (William Holden) spends the post-WWII years toiling in a dull desk job, increasingly haunted by an incident that happened on the Tiger Shark, a submarine under his command, on the last day of the war. As the Korean War begins to heat up, Ken finds himself once again commanding the Tiger Shark. Can Ken finally put his bad memories to rest?

Nancy Olson plays Holden's beautiful wife, Carol; she and Holden teamed in four films in 1950-51, including SUNSET BOULEVARD, FORCE OF ARMS, and UNION STATION.

Don Taylor plays Pete, a flyer rescued by the Tiger Shark during WWII who becomes a good friend of both Ken and Carol, despite his penchant for trying to forget a back injury with booze and partying. William Bendix plays a submarine crew member who resents Ken's WWII decisions and is not happy to be reunited with Ken years later.

Holden, Olson, and Taylor are all appealing performers who are most enjoyable in the film. Bendix has never been my particular cup of tea, but he is right for an unpleasant role as an unforgiving man who refuses to see more than one side to a story.

This is a solid, well-crafted film, the kind of good "run-of-the-mill" entertainment which Hollywood turned out routinely decades ago and which perhaps is best appreciated now, from the vantage point of over half a century later.

The movie has a feeling of "by the book" Navy authenticity which adds to the viewer's enjoyment. The opening credits note that the film was shot on Navy ships and installations. IMDb credits the U.S. Naval Base in San Diego.

The supporting cast includes Jack Kelly (TV's Bart MAVERICK) as a crew member; he is frequently seen at the edge of the frame in group shots, with a more significant role near the end of the film. Arthur Franz, Darryl Hickman, Moroni Olsen, Jerry Paris, Jack Gregson, and Peggy Webber are also in the cast. Robert Mitchum's brother, John, has a bit part.

SUBMARINE COMMAND was directed by John Farrow. It was shot in black and white and runs 87 minutes.

SUBMARINE COMMAND is not available on DVD or VHS. It's a Paramount movie which has been shown on Turner Classic Movies. Click here for a page to request that TCM schedule the movie or to vote your interest in a DVD release.

TCM doesn't have a trailer, but has a clip of a key moment of crisis early in the film here.

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